an unusual laundry question

I work at an in-patient mental health ward. We recently had an outbreak of lice among our clients (yes, I said lice - you can begin scratching your heads now) We have been treating this with a system where we soak their heads in vegetable oil before bed, wrap the hair in cellophane, and then putting a toque/beanie over the whole thing. It works pretty well, but we’ve been left with a problem - the oil gets in the sheets and towels, and we’re having a hell of a time getting it out. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get oil stains out of laundry (not to mention the oil SMELL)? Thanks.

I’ve had good luck using Simple Green as a pre-soak to get oil out of fabric. But, you’ll probably need to check with your local sanitation department before using it in the quantities you’ll need.

Can I ask: Why oil? It’s not like lice shampoo is expensive. And it’s faster and less annoying.

How about trying dish soap? You know, like Dawn or Joy or Ivory or whatever other brands there are which you use to wash dishes by hand. Most of them are designed to cut grease, which is really all that oil is.

(No promises, I’ve not tried it.)

What kind of vegetable oil?
Soy bean oil, corn oil, and canola oil are semi-drying oils which polymerize in the presence of oxygen. That reaction can make it very difficult to get them out of fabrics.
Nondrying oils such as olive oil or peanut oil will be much easier to wash out.

The oil treatment - part of a five step plan -

  1. shampoo with pediculicidal shampoo
  2. oil treatment - the oil kills active lice that may be immune to the shampoo
  3. Clean the environment.
  4. Comb out the nits, wash and dry hair thoroughly
  5. Check again for nits.

Repeat steps 2-5 every four days

cooking oils (olive, corn, soybean and canola oils)

Wow. I’ve never heard of this approach to head lice. The shampoo can be used a couple times. Wash all the bedding with bleach, vacuum their quarters, etc.

My dad used to pour kerosene over his head back in the 30s when he was a kid. Oh…and shaved heads used to be part of the remedy as well.

Yeah - that would be an option - if the BOYS were infected. Unfortunately, only the girls* got it this time around. We haven’t run across a girl here yet who was willing to shave their head for lice removal (and two of them have hair to their waists).

*Just so no one is offended - I say ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ because this is a unit for adolescents/children.

Also, be sure everyone is only using their own combs/brushes. No sharing of hats, scarves, hair ties, etc. Might want to put the smack-down on any rough-housing, etc. until it’s under control.

Use just the olive oil. Those others cause problems with laundry.

Wait, you’re treating shoulder-length or longer hair with oil? No wonder it’s leaving such a mess! Ugh. Use the shampoo.

My general rule in washing out anything oily, from salad dressing to engine oil, is to wash in water that is as hot as possible. The heat liquifies the oil so it can be washed away. It might take more than one washing, depending on how much oil we’re talking about. You want both the wash and the rinse to be hot water.

Wash them in TSP (Painter’s Soap)… for a regualr (home laundry ) I would use about 1/2 cup of crystals per load. (Caution, don’t get the dry crystals on wet skin, or add other soaps/detergents). Use HOt water. and a regular cycle.

It will break down and remove the oil quite nicely…

Wasn’t offended but when I read “the BOYS” the way you have it typed, I thought you were using the term as a euphemism for…well, you know. That immediately made me wonder what was going on with the oil and wrapping.

Treatments like this are quite common in the UK - insecticidal shampoos just don’t work - the levels of active ingredients are regulated to what is presumably considered a safe level for humans, but this seems also to be a level to which the lice can easily become immune.

As an alternative to vegetable oil though, you might like to try hair conditioner - it is effective in smothering the adult lice and making them easy to remove - you slap loads of it on, leave it an hour, then comb as much as you can out with a fine tooth comb, rinsing and wiping the comb between strokes to avoid reintroducing bugs.

To remove oil stains from fabric on a small scale, I’ve always used ordinary shampoo - it’s designed to dissolve grease - especially if you buy the really cheap stuff labelled ‘for greasy hair’.

To remove greasy stains use Goop™ hand cleaner, it works great.

I use Head & Shoulders on myself and my dog. I kills the fleas on the dog INSTANTLY! Maybe It’ll work for head lice? Or in laundry?